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What makes a 'great' B2B event?


As a sales outsourcing company specializing in delegate sales, we’ve noticed a distinct difference in how some events are immediately attractive to an audience, while others are not (and can often ultimately fail in the long run).

As we have worked on different events for different event companies, it has given us a good measure of the different features (and their individual benefits) that make an event attractive to delegates (which also makes it attractive to sponsors).

Below is a list of things that, in our humble opinion, give certain events the edge over others. They may not be a guarantee of success, but certainly seem to make a difference when it comes to registration and retention levels:

Interesting and informative website content

It’s not enough to simply put an agenda, sample delegate list, with short speaker-bios onto a simple website anymore: the audience wants to be enticed from the moment the page loads. The event homepage needs to be both appealing to a wide audience including potential delegates, speakers, sponsors, and media partners, while also being direct enough to fulfill each’s individual goal. The home page should try to avoid jargon-sounding nonsensical phrases such as “Employ your instincts in the cultural paradigm shift” or try to be too clever with some tedious theme. The website should instead be simple, direct and insightful, with a clear message as to the point of the event itself. Its better we’ve found, to be completely transparent with who will be there and why from the very start.

There should be a regular stream of content produced in-house, which can be used to both promote the event to new customers and also keep those already registered engaged right up to the event (and increase attendance rates). These should include, but not be limited to: speaker interviews, whitepapers, videos, weekly industry round-ups, surveys, and key event developments.

Pre-arranged one-to-one-meetings

Pre-arranged one-to-ones are a key part of the industry and a useful way for event organizers to guarantee at least some level of interaction between delegates and sponsors. They are, however, a key turn-off for many potential delegates. This is due to the bad reputation this type of networking has, based on the notion that once registered, you will spend your time at the event being forced to hold meetings with vendors you’ve spent the past few months trying to avoid. It doesn’t make sense though, as it is key for the event organizers to make sure all attendees have a good experience (so that they come back), and badly arranged meetings can sour things for all parties involved.

We’ve found that, while events with no pre-arranged meetings are more attractive, by introducing a more interactive way of organizing meetings, you can find the right balance. This does not mean asking the delegate attendee to fill in a 15-page questionnaire on the budget and 18-month purchasing needs the moment they’ve clicked register. Nor does it mean simply giving sponsors free reign over who they target themselves. We've found that by asking the delegate to fill out a short survey, highlighting their problem areas, while avoiding in-depth questions about budget, allows for an easier matching process and more valuable connections made.

The best tool for networking with sponsors we’ve found, and has been utilized with varying degrees of complexity with different clients, is an event app...

Introduce a (useful) event app

While we’ve worked with a number of customers that employ the use of an event app (they’ve been around for a while), not all of them actually realize it’s potential. Some event apps simply show the agenda, and are essentially a mobile version of the website, which isn’t that useful while you’re at the event, and essentially is just a digital version of the standard event program.

The more forward-thinking companies have utilized apps that offer an extra level of interactivity to the event experience, whether it allow you to vote and make suggestions to speakers in real-time, connect with fellow attendees and organize meetings, to share information between themselves via their personal devices. These apps have gamification features that allow sponsors to use locational beacons and push notifications to engage the audience, and organically bring delegates into conversations, which we’d guess are probably more enjoyable than pre-arranged one-to-ones.

Find a good location

While you don’t want to look as though you’re effectively bribing people to attend your event, there’s no denying the difference a location can make to an individual event’s attractiveness to attendees. They are, of course, attending to learn and to network, to benefit themselves and their companies, to find solutions to their needs... but they’re also more likely to want to do this is a desirable setting.

Granted, it would not be economically viable to spend your entire budget on the venue, but we’ve found that cost is often not the case. It may seem sensible to hold the event at a hotel built for such a purpose: with conference suites and breakout rooms already set up, good transport links, and good Wi-Fi throughout, but there’s only so many of these conference suites you can go to before they all merge into a blend of beige and you realize that all the coffee tastes the same.

The most attractive events have been those taking place at venues that people would like to visit in real life. As is, somewhere that they would be interested in visiting anyway, so attending an event there would be a good excuse. This doesn’t mean that this needs to be expensive. Many ‘landmarks’, famous hotels, buildings of note, have the facilities to hold conferences. Some can offer a completely new and refreshing event experience, and can make your event stand out, even becoming key for future events.

Conclusion

So while it’s not necessary to incorporate all (or any) of the above to enjoy a successful event, they are contributing factors that seem to make the event more attractive to attendees and keep them better engaged post event. Of course, the event topics, strength of speakers, and relevance to actual industry needs are fundamental: these are just a few things that seem to help.

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